Tasting Notes: Fruits of Their Labor
Category: Tasting Notes
When apple prices plummeted about 10 years ago, Mike and Karen Wade wondered how they could diversify enough to keep their third-generation, Wenatchee-based fruit-growing and -packing company afloat and continue to be competitive. Suddenly faced with cheap imported apples being dumped onto the U.S. market-which was already sagging from the 1980s scare surrounding Alar, a chemical sprayed on apples to regulate growth and enhance color-Columbia Fruit Packers needed another venture to blend into the business.
That business venture turned out to be a small patch of land smack-dab in the middle of their own orchards. We decided to pull out a Red Delicious orchard on 15 acres in Mattawa and plant grapes in 1998, says Mike, who had been experimenting with home wine making. We didn't tell many people at the time because we didn't know where this might go. But along the way, a confluence of things happened all at once, and we were in the right place at the right time.
The Wades were lucky, for instance, that Mattawa turned out to be a stellar location for grape growing and that their vineyard-dubbed RiverBend Vineyard-produced young fruit that was mouth-filling from the start for their new winery, Fielding Hills. Their first vintage, the 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon, garnered 91 points from Wine Spectator, an unusual feat for a fledgling winery.
As a family rooted in agriculture, the Wades found the transition to grape growing relatively easy. Farming is farming, says Karen, but with vineyards, we had to make adjustments. For instance, orchards need pruning to promote growth, and pruning in vineyards is done in order to limit growth on the vine. Farmers usually want to get the biggest yields possible from their planted acres, but with vineyards, yields are deliberately reduced to increase quality-a practice the Wades had to get used to. We found a few mentors to help us along the way-some very generous people in this business showed us that great wine can be made on a small scale, says Karen.
One of those mentors was Charlie Hoppes, owner/winemaker of Fidelitas Winery on Red Mountain and consultant to a number of Washington wineries. Before they started making wine, the Wades sold their first grapes to Hoppes, and in return, the affable winemaker helped Mike with his own wines. Initially, Mike would call Hoppes with dozens of questions-at first regarding the basics, such as the differences between types of oak barrels, and eventually drilling down to the minutiae of the wine-making process, such as how different yeasts work. It is the little things, the little details that you don't know about when you first get started making wine, says Hoppes. Mike was pretty green, but he is a sharp guy. There isn't one big thing that will make your wines more special than others-it's the attention to the little details. Mike is a detail guy who gets it.
If little details can create great wines, Mike is a natural, from knowing when to harvest his fruit to having the patience to wait the 18 months required for the wine to age in barrels and reach its optimum quality. Wines from the latest vintage, 2004, including the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and RiverBend Red, received high marks from Wine Spectator-all 90 points and above. The couple also makes small amounts of Cabernet Franc, also highly rated, and is considering the production of Malbec.
Overall, I intentionally minimize what I do in the vineyard, says Mike. We are blessed with great grapes, so I try to stay out of the way of what Mother Nature can do.
Being a wine minimalist makes sense for a guy who is president of a global fruit-packing operation and a winery, and a father of three. The Wades have three daughters-20, 16 and 13-and must juggle busy family life with their successful wine operation. When it comes to math, my 13-year-old knows her multiplication tables for twe Christina Kelly http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/07jun14.gif Washington Wines
620 June 2007 2007-05-17 19:42:15.000 Super Sonic Plastic is fantastic, but vinyl is final.
Category: Shopping + Fashion Articles
That could bethe slogan of Sonic Boom's new General Store, located in the former FremontNews space next-door to the original Sonic Boom Records. Up front resembles aChubby & Tubby for the cool kids, with electronic and MP3 accessories,Japanese toys, tees, sugary treats and other hip essentials. In back, the feelis more akin to an '80s-style record store, with bins of used, new and rarealbums in every genre alongside portable, self-powered turntables (about $160).Lining the shelves are pop culture books and glossy fashion, lifestyle andmusic publications, including 33-1/3, a quirky series coveringindividual albums, such as Neil Young's Harvest and The Pixies' Doolittle,written by passionate music critics ($10.95/book). You might even catch anoccasional reading or acoustic performance by the next big thing–check theirWeb site for details.
Heather Fassio http://seattlemag.com/files/image/main/large/gen137.gif Shopping + Fashion Articles